Jamavar London’s arrival on Mount Street make it the sixth in the Jamavar family, and the first in the UK, the others scattered through the Indian sub-continent inside the Leela Group hotels. And if we’d been dropped directly into the middle of its marble-and-marquetry dining room rather than arriving from Green Park station, it’d be hard to tell which of them you’d found yourself in. When the curtains hanging at the entrance swish into place behind you, it’s all dark timber and inlaid wood, and the smell of citrus and meat like a summer evening. The summeriness would feel incongruous – it’s deep January outside. But inside it’s a cocoon, the acoustics and the layout balanced at that place where can’t-hear-what-your-neighbours-are-talking-about meets got-a-background-buzz.
Gin covers a large tranche of the cocktail menu, and not just in the Botanical Garden – it’s code for gin and tonic – section. My Burman cocktail’s a mix of Champagne, Indian-spiced gin, lemon and jasmine flower, though my brother’s Sam Fire steers clear of gin, with vodka, pink peppercorns and bitters. Many of the things going into their cocktails you’d be hard-pushed to find in most London bars – coconut oil wash or saffron-spiced spirits, anybody? Pimento bitter or lotus leaf?- though on a sample size of two cocktails, everything’s there for effect rather than novelty. Nothing feels gimmicky about the cocktails we’re brought, both yellow and cool, sweet and bitter, and tasting like afternoons in a country hot enough to have a lot of porches.
The menu skips across India, hitting specialities from the North, South and neighbouring countries, and so do we. There’s venison samosa, with cauliflower, seasoned and crisped till the outside’s the same texture as the pastry of the samosa. The kid goat Shami Kebab with black cardamom and chur-chur paratha’s a kebab for grown-ups, a small, rich dome of meat with a thunk of fresh greenness from the mint chutney. The Dum Nalli Biryani’s made with Hampshire lamb on and off the bone, basmati rice and crispy onions, an egg nestled inside the rice, crusted with spices and hard-boiled. By consensus, the Shami Kebab and the lamb biryani are the stand-outs – the ones you know if you came back repeatedly you’d reorder repeatedly, at the expense of the rest of the menu.
There are some things here that feel like early-day teething stuff, which is fair – it is early days. The mix of sorbets arrive as three scoops, scattered with fresh fruit, curls of white chocolate and garnishes – two of the scoops a surprising, bitter, woody hit of flavour far stranger and more interesting than mixed berry or orange sorbets sound like they could be, the third scoop rock-hard, and so frozen that we finish the rest and our drinks without managing more than small shavings off the edge.
The wine list’s brilliant by the bottle – by the glass that diminishes to a handful of nice but less interesting choices. And the beer on the menu’s token, which feels strange when a crisp beer and fiery, potatoey dishes like the Macher Jhol (Bengali fish curry with potato and chilli) would be such a perfect match, and with Indian brewing at a boom. So there are places where all the flourishes are there but some of the basics aren’t. But none of those things would register as lower notes if it weren’t for everything else Jamavar has going on – the roaming menu, unstarchy service, and the restaurant’s bubble of summer in the middle of a Mayfair winter – being pitch-perfect.
Jamavar, 8, Mount Street, W1K 3NF. 0207 4991800. Website.